Jonathan Stapley is the author of “The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology” (Oxford University Press, 2018).
The Council of Fifty was a secret organization founded by the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1844. The previously inaccessible records — or minutes — kept by the group remained a source of much speculation until they were made public in 2016. A new book titled “The Council of Fifty: What the Records Reveal about Mormon History” contains 15 essays about various topics of interest from the minutes of the council.
Among the many insights shared in the book are five fascinating facts about the Council of Fifty minutes. Continue reading “Five fascinating facts about the Council of Fifty”
The life of Parley P. Pratt is inextricably linked with the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Terryl L. Givens and Matthew J. Grow shed additional light on Pratt’s life and his influence on the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in their new biography, “Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism.” The contents of the book, along with a recent lecture by the authors at Benchmark Books in Salt Lake City, provide answers to many questions about Pratt, including the following:
While working on a review of a book about Joseph Smith and seer stones, my daughter came home from church and told me they had talked about seer stones in Sunday School. “The teacher said we should believe Joseph Smith was a prophet,” she said, “even though he made mistakes like using seer stones.”
The comment provided a good opportunity to discuss how seer stones were not a mistake, but rather Continue reading “10 questions and answers about Joseph Smith and seer stones”
“The Council of Fifty: What the Records Reveal About Mormon History,” is a timely book published by BYU’s Religious Studies Center. While the minutes of the council were published in their totality via the Joseph Smith Papers in 2016, they still remain somewhat inaccessible to general readers. “The Council of Fifty” contains 15 essays by leading scholars about relevant topics of interest. Continue reading “Book Review – The Council of Fifty: What the records reveal about Mormon history”
The Council of Fifty minutes include a fascinating quote on “perfect revelation,” or whether a revelation requires perfect wording to be the word of God.
The Council of Fifty was an exclusive organization founded by Joseph Smith in 1844. The minutes of the council were published by the Church Historians Press in 2016 as part of the Joseph Smith Papers Project. The minutes include a wide variety of topics ranging from spiritual teachings to discussions about Indians to desires to form a new government.
The context for the quote is a series of discussions within the Council of Fifty about drafting a new constitution. The committee was somewhat paralyzed by fear of making a mistake and thus had difficulty getting started. One of the viewpoints shared was that of Brigham Young, who commented on Joseph Smith’s prophetic authority.
Included in his commentary is a fascinating quote about the word-for-word perfection of revelation. Continue reading “The Council of Fifty minutes on perfect revelation”
John Gee is perhaps the leading Mormon commentator on the Book of Abraham – a portion of Mormon scripture that is simultaneously vital to the Mormon belief of premortal existence and heavily debated inside of academic circles. As a believing Mormon with a Ph.D. in Egyptology from Yale University, Gee brings a wonderful mix of perspectives to the discussion. Continue reading “Book Review: An Introduction to the Book of Abraham”
Truman Madsen (1926 – 2009) told the story of a Latter-day Saint religious service in a prison I have occasionally seen pop up as a joke in Mormon culture. In the story, someone is offering a prayer and uses an absent-minded phrase that echoes an expression you can often hear in benedictions at Mormon congregations: ‘Please bless that those who are not here today will be here next time.’
Various forms of the joke use slightly different wording but the general substance is always the same. While you may pray that someone who is not at church today can be in attendance the next time, you probably do not want to pray that the location for their particular church services will be a prison.
I always thought this was just a joke, but I recently stumbled across a story that suggests it is based on an actual incident. Continue reading “Justice A. H. Ellett and the origin of a Mormon joke”
In early 2017, I published a short Q&A for the Deseret News on Joseph Smith and seer stones. The article was intended for a general audience and based upon a book by Michael Hubbard Mackay and Nicholas J. Federick, Joseph Smith’s Seer Stones.
The book is rather short, but not necessary entirely conducive to concise and understandable descriptions of common questions about the topic. In an effort to secure quotes about popular questions that could easily fit within the narrative tone of the article, I contacted the authors for an interview.
Frederick consulted with Mackay and responded to the three questions I posed on November 05, 2016.
On June 5, 1976, the Teton Dam in Idaho failed. What began as a small crack spread to a substantial break within hours. As the surrounding area began to flood, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints quickly mobilized and prevented what could have been a dramatic loss of life. Nonetheless, the damage was significant. Homes and business were ruined. Access to water and utilities was curtailed, if not entirely inaccessible. The situation was awful.
In the coming days and weeks, thousands would flock to the area to help with cleanup and rebuilding. My father, Howard Manwaring, was a teenager at the time and among those who traveled to Rexburg, Idaho, from Pocatello, Idaho to assist in the efforts.